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Miguela paused, regarding herself in the reflection of the polished double doors of the headmaster's office. She adjusted a wayward tuft of hair then smoothed wrinkles on her modest green dress. Straightening her back, Miguela gave the door knocker two confident raps. The vibration of the action traveled up her arm, but she heard no sound. Confused by the lack of audible feedback, she was about to try again when the door slowly swung open.

"Enter," a voice called from inside.

Well, this certainly wasn't going as she expected. She took a deep breath and then crossed the threshold into the headmaster's office. The room was as impressive as she'd expected. Large as a windship hanger, the chamber had dozens of magikal trophies and other oddities on display. Magikal power washed over Miguela as she proceeded toward the center of the room, where the headmaster waited, sitting behind a massive, ornate desk. Miguela inwardly cringed when she saw the expression of impatience on his face, quickening her step.

"Headmaster Vawall," she greeted, making her best curtsy as she stopped in front of his desk.

Headmaster Vawall was an elderly Arzan, whose blue skin was so wrinkled it reminded her of a dried grape. He was tall despite his age- stooped shoulders, and he had an air of sternness that she figured only decades of teaching could create.

"Be at ease, Mistress Miguela. I did not call you here for disciplinary reasons," he said, toying with a ring on his pinky finger as he inspected her.

His words brought Miguela a measure of relief, and she resisted the urge to relax. There were still many ways this meeting could go wrong.

"Why don't you have a seat and relax before we begin?" the headmaster said.

Where was she supposed to sit? The floor? She opened her mouth to speak, but a flash of something in her peripheral vision caught her eye. A high-backed chair that hadn't been there appeared out of nowhere. Such an unusual use of magik was unsettling, but she kept her composure and sat down.

The headmaster smiled a knowing smile as she settled into her seat. For several awkward moments, he shuffled through a stack of parchments until finding what he was looking for, then clicked his tongue before nodding to himself.

"Let's see here, Miguela DeStrella was born in the capital of Xanth to a successful merchant family. Your father being the pious man he is, arranged for his third-born child to become an orator for the god of wealth, Ajo, as tradition dictates. Upon starting your apprenticeship, your mentor discovered your affinity with the arcane and convinced your father to enroll you in the Academy where you have been for the last two years."

It was strange to have her entire life summarized in such a concise manner, but nothing the headmaster said was untrue. Miguela was unsure what the point was, but in her time at the Academy, she had learned if she kept quiet, her lecturers would eventually get the crux of the issue.

"During your time at the Academy, you have been an above-average pupil whose lecturers all believe that you have not been living up to your potential. Many have categorized you as someone satisfied with being average for the rest of your life. In most cases, this would not call for the attention of the headmaster, but we live in strange times," the headmaster said.

Miguela was surprised at how much the words stung. She was also embarrassed because she knew his words also to be true. Blinking rapidly, Miguela poured every drop of her willpower into stopping the tears she felt forming in her eyes. She would not cry in front of this man. She --

"There is no reason to drag the young lady through the mud, is there, headmaster?" a voice from behind Miguela asked.

She jumped at the sound and turned her head to the side, trying to keep one eye on the headmaster and see the unknown participant in their conversation simultaneously.

"I do not mean to be harsh, Archmage Larz, but I do believe in telling the truth, especially for something this important."

Miguela could hardly believe her ears. She was in a meeting with the headmaster of the Academy and the First Chair of the Consul of the Five! What in the seven hells was going on?

The woman, Archmage Larz, walked into view, and Miguela got her first good look at the other woman. Archmage Larz was a tall, broad-shouldered Arzan with short-cropped hair. She wore brilliant blue robes that reminded Miguela of a summer sky. The tilt of the Archmage Larz's head, in combination with her commanding posture, reminded Miguela of the high nobles and royalty she'd met throughout her life.

"I admit there are concerns about her determination, but I feel it would be better to inform her rather than dress her down in this case, headmaster," Archmage Larz said as she came to a stop next to the headmaster's desk. She turned her attention to Miguela before continuing, "Miguela, many of your lecturers believe that you can be a powerful and talented mage. But if you do not apply yourself, becoming that mage they believe is inside of you will be impossible. Luckily, a brilliant archmage has developed a new program that could use talented people like you. In that program, I am sure you can find the purpose you have been lacking to fulfill your potential. Does this interest you?"

Something in the Archmage's gaze implied only one answer to her question was correct. Miguela froze, partly from the cold scrutiny of the First Chair and partly because she had always felt that she lacked direction in her life. She became an Orator because her father wished her to, not because she wanted it. Even her studies in the Academy were only because of her mentor's wishes. Whatever Archmage Larz was offering tempted her to her very core.

Before she could form a proper answer, the Archmage spoke again. "I will be frank with you. This new program could revolutionize how magik is used and save thousands of lives. The Five Kingdoms needs you more than ever. As you may have heard, we have negotiated with the Wildland clans, allowing them to settle a city near Rame in exchange for taming the Wildlands. However, it seems that the Wildlands are more hostile than we have anticipated. If this program is successful, you would be able to find the truth about what we are facing and hopefully give us the information needed to defeat our opposition without leaving the comforts of Arza.”

"This is a lot to digest," Miguela said.

The headmaster frowned at her words. "I told you that she did not have what it took to serve a greater cause than herself," Headmaster Vawall said, speaking to Archmage Larz as if Miguela was not in the room.

"I did not say that I was not interested," she snapped, immediately regretting her haughtiness as both of the powerful mages looked at her intently. The headmaster wore a look of disdain, most likely from her tone, while the Archmage wore an expression that Miguela recognized as amusement.

"It is just that only a few moments ago, my only concerns were passing my exams, and now I am told the Five Kingdoms requires me to be a part of a program that could change the magikal world as I know it. It is a bit overwhelming," Miguela added, feeling the need to defend herself. The headmaster audibly scoffed at her statement, but the Archmage surprisingly nodded sympathetically to her words.

"I understand that it might seem staggering at first, but destiny often is. I cannot promise that if you decide to help the Five Kingdoms, your experience will be a pleasant one, but I can assure you that you will be making a difference, and when it is over, you will be able to forge your path in life. It will be your chance to make your own decisions and gain your own accolades," Archmage Larz said after a moment.

Miguela was surprised at how well the Archmage seemed to know her inner desires. She wondered if they picked her because of her potential or her upbringing. She figured it was a bit of both.

"I'll do it," she said before she could find reasons to stop herself.

"Excellent. Training will begin immediately. The Five Kingdoms thanks you for your diligence and your sacrifice," Archmage Larz replied. Miguela hoped she did not just make a mistake, but the smug look on the headmaster's face told her that he might have played her like a cheap fiddle.

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A note from CKJ5

If you like what you are reading, you can find more epic adventures in the Five Kingdoms universe on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VKC3TRR


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About the author

CKJ5

  • Tokyo, Japan

Bio: Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.

Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.

Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.

The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VKC3TRR

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